Dan the scoring man
It took Daniel Vasic all of a couple of weeks to acclimatize himself to junior hockey.
After five games, the 16-year-old Newmarket native netted his first goal for the Thorold Blackhawks and was off to the races.
“It felt good. I knew it was coming and as soon as the first one went in I felt better and I started getting more of a scoring touch,” Vasic said.
Vasic is on a seven-game goal scoring streak which has seen him collect nine goals and 14 points in just 11 games.
“I brought him in to score goals,” Thorold coach Scott Barnes said. “He had tons of chances early on. Once he got on the board, he’s been on fire.”
Barnes feels Vasic is already an elite offensive player.
“I can’t even describe his shot. I don’t want to compare it to Auston Matthews’ but it’s the closest thing I’ve seen a 16-year-old have to his shot,” Barnes said. “He already knows where to score. A lot of guys try to put it up under the bar or wherever but he already knows the holes and finds those. It’s his offensive IQ of finding holes and how to get his shot off on net.
“You see guys get breakaways and get a lot of chances and maybe score on one or two but you give a goal scorer an opportunity and they’re going to score and that’s him.”
Vasic said he studies his craft.
“I guess I work on my shot a lot and watch a lot of video of offensive zone clips,” he said. “I like to use my shot as much as possible. It’s just something I have.
“Sometimes I just try to put it on net but I usually try and catch the goalie moving, that’s why I try and change the angle from where I shoot. That’s something learned from past shooting coaches.”
With his offence on track, the speedy winger is now working to round out his game.
“It’s something I’m working on with Scott, to be a full player,” he said. “There are some nights when you don’t score and the puck is just not going your way so you have to figure out how to make yourself useful in a different way, whether that’s winning all your battles or playing a full, 200-foot game. It’s a key because once you get to the higher levels, everyone is good.”
Barnes has already seen an improvement.
“We’ve played 11 games and even just the change in that time is pretty crazy,” Barnes said. “To see his game evolve in a short period of time is a testament to him wanting to do it and a lot of video.”
Barnes said Vasic understands the importance of being just more than a scorer.
“It’s something we’ve been in discussion with him. It’s just his play away from the puck and when he doesn’t have it, how hard is he competing and how good is his positioning, his stick battles and everything that goes into getting it back. He’s a better player when the puck is on his stick.”
Vasic spent last season with the York-Simcoe Express U16 AAA squad where he netted 14 goals and 33 points in 27 games. He was drafted in the sixth round, 123rd overall, by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2022 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
He is keeping his options open for next season.
“I haven’t really decided yet. NCAA or playing for Hamilton and both great options. I’m still definitely thinking about it,” he said.
The Blackhawks are coming off a pair of weekend wins versus the Pelham Panthers.
“We got a badly needed couple of wins,” Barnes said. “The boys have been playing so well. We put together some really good periods of hockey — maybe not a full 60 minutes — but we deserved a better record than what we had. We are not a 3-8 team but we are 3-8. Hopefully we can string some wins together and climb back out of it.”
The Blackhawks are in Niagara Falls Friday and home to Hamilton Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Vale Centre.
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